June 09, 2022

Visual Campaign Created by ArtCenter Alumni Featured in Designing Peace Exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City

Posters from UN Declaration of Human Rights project will be on view from June 10, 2022 through September 4, 2023

Exhibition explores the role of design in building peace and resilience

ArtCenter alumni Christopher Kosek and Cindy Chen will showcase human rights-themed posters created while they were students at an upcoming exhibition called “Designing Peace” at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The exhibition is on view from June 10, 2022 through September 4, 2023.

“In the wake of cultural and socioeconomic divides and issues like the homelessness crisis here in the United States, “Designing Peace” is a timely exhibition,” said Jennifer May, executive director of ArtCenter’s Designmatters social innovation department. “It’s with great pride that we celebrate work from ArtCenter alumni in this show; their work is as powerful and poignant as ever.”

“Designing Peace” will explore the unique role design can play in pursuing peace. It features design projects from around the world that look at ways to create and sustain more durable peaceful interactions. Opening at a critical juncture of current global dynamics, the exhibition grapples with the reality of people facing vast social, environmental and economic inequities, and dozens of continuing conflicts, from internal insurgencies, long-standing armed standoffs, territorial disputes and, most recently, the Russia-Ukraine war.

The works to be included by Kosek and Chen were originally created during an ArtCenter Designmatters class that developed a visual communication campaign on human rights in commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th Anniversary. This transdisciplinary studio was taught by Illustration faculty member Esther Pearl Watson and ArtCenter alum and former faculty Martha Rich. The resulting work formed the poster exhibition, “Images for Human Rights: Student Voices.”

The posters were first displayed as part of the annual United Nations Department of Public Information/NGO conference at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquartered in Paris in September of 2008. It has since been shown at the Pasadena Central Library, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. This is the third Designmatters project to be featured in a Cooper Hewitt exhibition; previous projects include Safe Auga and Where’s Daryl?

“Designing Peace” will feature 40 design proposals, initiatives and interventions from 25 countries, represented by objects, models, full-size installations, maps, images and film. ArtCenter alumni work will be featured in the section of the exhibition asking the question: How can design address the root causes of conflict?

“I wanted to use everyday objects that homeless people have appropriated to create shelter, privacy and a home to survive. In this context, objects that we dispose of take on a different meaning,” said Cindy Chen in reference to one of the posters she made about Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The poster depicts a simple cardboard box as the background. The sharpie text reads, “THIS IS MY HOME: In the United States 3.5 million people will experience homelessness in a given year. 1.35 million of them being children.”

“I am always incredibly inspired by the students that become involved in the Designmatters program,” said May. “I am grateful to our renowned faculty, Esther and Martha, for their tireless work and support of our students. The devotion that our faculty demonstrate in guiding our students from original ideas to the final artworks is very special. It is an honor to participate in this exhibition.”

Other notable works included in “Designing Peace” are the Black Lives Matter Harlem Street Mural, the Peace Pavilion in India and the Teeter-Totter Wall at the US-Mexico border. Organized by Cynthia E. Smith, curator of socially responsible design, with Caroline O’Connell, curatorial assistant, “Designing Peace” continues Cooper Hewitt’s humanitarian design exhibition series exploring how design can address some of the world’s most critical issues.

“As America’s design museum, Cooper Hewitt advances public understanding that design can be a force for good,” Smith said. “Peace building and design are dynamic processes which involve engagement, understanding context, trust-building, communication and iteration. This exhibition will explore the role of design in building peace and resilience—and proposes that peace is not abstract and remote, but can be local, tangible and even possible.”

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About Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 215,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world.

About Designmatters at ArtCenter
Founded in 2001, Designmatters is a groundbreaking, college-wide program that serves all academic disciplines at ArtCenter College of Design. The department sets a global standard for art and design education in social innovation. Designmatters advances art and design as a force for innovation and social change through research, advocacy and action. Designmatters collaborates with nonprofit organizations, industry, and national and international development agencies on immersive, outcome-oriented research and projects. ArtCenter students, alumni and faculty participate in cross-disciplinary design studios, workshops, independent studies, fellowships and internships that yield high impact results which are widely disseminated. In recognition of Designmatters’ leadership, Art Center was the first design school to receive Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status at the United Nations.

About Illustration at ArtCenter
ArtCenter’s Illustration curriculum encompasses a wide range of core studies and collaborations with other disciplines that equips students with strong practical skills, as well as substantial business knowledge. After mastering foundations skills such as figure drawing, painting and perspective, students choose from five main areas of specialization: Illustration Design, Illustration/Fine Art, Entertainment Arts, Entertainment Arts Consumer Products, Motion Design and Surface Design.

About ArtCenter
Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees in a wide variety of art and design disciplines. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves the general public through a highly regarded series of online and on-campus year-round extension programs for all levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations' Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College's long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.

Teri Bond
Media Relations Director
ArtCenter College of Design
626 396-2385

cardboard box poster
© 2008 Design by Cindy Chen for Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design

pink anatomical heart poster
© 2008 Design by Christopher Kosek for Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design